Your splendid "Get creative!" (Asian Edition Cover Story and European Edition Special Report, Aug. 8) was a timely and much-needed wake-up call defining the crucial role that innovation will play in decades ahead. Perhaps you could give equal attention in a future edition to the even greater need for innovation in the rest of our economic and social fabric. The provision, for example, of such public services as education, health, housing, security, justice, transportation, and communication are all in desperate need of innovative thinking.
While there are very impressive well-documented exceptions, we rely for the most part on techniques and processes of teaching, health care, social service, and communication that are only marginally different then they were 50 years ago and, in some cases, 100 years ago. A list of the world's top 20 most innovative institutions would make interesting reading.
Henry Michael Strage
Everyone in our company read "Get creative!" It was a thought-provoking article and led to reflections on how many of these ideas may have been spawned by Tom Peters. For example, in 1995, Peters was ranting about how "Innovation is everything!" In 2000 he restated it as "Design is everything." The five steps on the evolution of the creative company are succinctly covered in his recent book Re-imagine! Cirque du Soleil is a "wow" experience...a description right out of Peters' The Pursuit of Wow! The only way to effect true innovation is for it to be on the agenda of every meeting, in every single department, in every division, and in the boardroom.
If Peters didn't spawn it, he fueled it with his technicolor definitions of "excellence." As you so well highlighted, innovation is the differentiating factor, and companies that ignore the power of elegant and functional innovation will lose.
Juli Ann Reynolds
President & CEO
Tom Peters Co.
While it is true that the innovation-to-imitation cycle has shrunk to zero and that globalization might as well be called commoditization, you can't adopt an innovation-led strategy for one part of the world -- the West -- and a different strategy (e.g., pushing products) in another part of the world -- India or China -- especially when the majority of your future customers reside there.
First, if you adopt a split strategy (one for the West and another for India), you're going to alienate your customers in India (or China). Indians don't want to be treated as second-rate consumers in their own country, especially by a foreign multinational. Second, if you take the innovation-led paradigm to India, consumers will love it, but competitors (domestic Indian companies) won't let you steal their customers. They will lift up their game by using the bar you have set.
Indians might not know how to innovate for Western customers, but they know how to do it in their own backyard. When someone attacks your livelihood, people become amazingly innovative.
"Get creative!" does an excellent job of describing advances at one end of the value chain: the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and its customers. Unfortunately, it ignores the other end: the firm's supply base. In our study of supply-chain innovation, we found that only a small percentage of companies recognized their suppliers as a source of innovation, and even fewer bothered to measure their value. What's most perplexing about this myopia is that the innovation derived from the supply chain is typically the least costly and least risky investment, and often the fastest to market. Those few companies that did use their supply chain as a source of innovation were market leaders. Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) gets more than half of its innovations from its supply base.
David N. Burt
Supply Chain Management Institute
University of San Diego
Robert Porter Lynch, CEO
Editor's note: Lynch is chairman emeritus of the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals.
In your otherwise excellent Special Report, the sentence "What was once central...is fast being shipped off to lower-paid, highly trained Chinese and Indians, as well as Hungarians, Czechs, and Russians" would suggest that only Chinese people live in China, Indians in India, etc. Surely the correct phrasing would be "lower-paid, highly trained citizens/residents/people living in China, India, Hungary." As recent events have proved, the belief that a country does or should only contain one nationality or ethnic group provokes many problems.
The recent revaluing of the Chinese yuan is seen by many as the first step to a freer economic and political system ("The yuan is growing up," Finance, Aug. 8/15). However, the move carries dangers as well. Most of the recent economic gains were concentrated in big cities along the coast. This has caused a wide divide between the haves, who generally are city dwellers, and the have-nots, mostly people who live in rural areas. A stronger yuan will increase that divide further.
When looking at China's history, all major revolutions were started by the peasantry. Yet change can easily go the other way. Nationalistic feelings can transform into militaristic ones, tipping the balance to the hard-liners in the Communist Party. China's leadership is fully aware of the danger of going both ways, thus investors should not expect another change in the near future. Change will come very slowly.
While the U.S. may see Marc Rich as the trader who got away, Europe tends toward respect for a legendary trader and a humanitarian. ("The Rich boys," Investigative Report, July 18). Rich has run a charitable foundation for more than 20 years. There are medical and cultural groups around the world that also know Marc Rich for what he has done for cancer research, education, and the arts in Europe, including the Lucerne Festival and Zurich Opera.